Summary: “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” Matt. 23:11-12.
Text: Mal. 1:14, 2:8-10; 1 Thess. 2:7-9, 13; Matt. 23:1-12
God has a divine plan for each person’s life. This plan, however, can only be fulfilled when one totally depends on God and this is only possible when one lives a life of humility. It is humility that allows us to acknowledge that God has a claim on our life as our Creator. It is humility that says, “I am a sinner, and I need to be saved”. It is humility that is the beginning of wisdom and only those who are humble see and understand the truths of the Kingdom. No one, on the other hand, who is proud, will ever gain anything from God. Pride says, “I can do it better than God”. Pride prevents us from following God’s plan, which leads to the sin of rebellion. By proudly carrying out our own plan for our lives and those around us, we will necessarily come into conflict with God’s plan. This is why the Scriptures say, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble”. From Genesis to Revelation this warning is echoed over and over again. Pride leads to destruction and a haughty spirit comes before a person falls. Humility and pride are directly related to the way we view God. If we think very little of God or do not believe God can direct our lives, we will think that we are capable of doing a better job than He can. When we put God in a proper perspective, our self-image will fall into the right perspective. Humility is not hanging our head low and belittling ourselves. Humility is depending on the sovereignty of God. Humility is understanding and believing that God’s ways are right. Humility is choosing to align our lives with the will of God. Humility is trusting God’s ability to lead and direct us.
Humility is to depend on God and results in trusting and obeying Him. To depend on self, however, makes it impossible for us to learn or to receive from God or from man. Malachi talks about a curse on those who depend on themselves. They are cursed because they see nothing wrong with what they are doing, nothing wrong with deceiving, nothing wrong with not keeping their vows and nothing wrong with not keeping God’s Law. They are cursed because they attempt to do the impossible – they attempt to live righteously without depending on God - without depending on the supernatural grace of God. Paul Younggi Cho is a very humble man. Once a reporter asked him the reason for his success in ministry and his reply was, “I listen and I obey”. Humility obeys God. Yet today many people no longer place any emphasis on humility. They have turned back to relying on their own efforts instead of relying on God. They have put human ability in the place of divine grace.
This was the main reason why the relationship between Jesus and the religious leaders of the Jews, particularly the Pharisees and the Sadducees was often one of confrontation. The scribes were the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees the interpreters of the Law. If the Scribe instructed that it was against the Law to work on the Sabbath, the Pharisees would define exactly what work meant in precise terms. The Pharisees showed society how the laws, which the scribes taught, were to be put into practice. The Pharisees, however, accepted as Scripture more than just the Pentateuch and the Prophets. They also accepted the sayings and the traditions that had been handed down by their forefathers. These traditions and their interpretation and application had become just as important to them as the Law of God itself. The result was a ritualistic form of legalism that led to the formulation of as many as 613 rules and regulations that the Jews were required to obey. They openly attempted to fulfil every requirement of the law to the letter, but in so doing often missed the principle behind the law. Jesus saw this as departing from the law, and only placing an unnecessary burden on the people. Not only were all these numerous regulations difficult to keep, it was even more difficult to learn each and every one of the clarifications as set forth by the Pharisees. We cannot achieve righteousness with God by observing a set of rules. The only way we can attain righteousness is to trust God, believing that He delivered Christ to death for our sins and that He raised Him from the dead for our justification.
God requires humility from everyone. In today’s gospel reading Jesus is addressing both the multitudes and His disciples. Today we would say that He was addressing both Churchgoers and the Church leadership about humility. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day can be compared to the religious leaders of today. Just like the Pharisees of old they want to be addressed with special titles and treated as though they are a step closer to God than everyone else. Humility is no longer a part of their lifestyle. Jesus is also telling the ordinary Churchgoer portrayed by the multitude to obey and do whatever the Church leadership says but not to copy them for the simple reason that they do not practice what they preach. They do not live a life of humility